University's choral union and symphony feel spirit of Africa

Friday, April 30, 2004

While there is nothing new about a joint performance including Southeast Missouri State University's choral union and symphony, this year's concert, "Feel the Spirit," is special.

It's special because it marks the last time Dr. John Egbert will conduct the university's choral union, and it will be the debut of a reworked "Dona Nobis Pacem" by renowned British composer David Fanshawe.

All the works featured in the concert are either inspired by Africa, as Fanshawe's work is, or African-American music, such as William Grant Still's "Afro-American Symphony," John Rutter's "Feel the Spirit," and Mack Wilberg's "I'm Runnin' On."

"John had heard some of David Fanshawe's music, and he thought of an African-American theme" for the concert, said symphony conductor Dr. Sara Edgerton. "I had wanted to do 'Afro-American Symphony,' which was written by an African-American composer early in the century. It's a work that broke some of the race barriers of the time," she said.

Fanshawe, best known for his study and recording of tribal and folk music from all around the world, will be in attendance for the premiere of his work and will give a talk at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday at Brandt Music Hall, Room 205.

The 62-year-old's musical career started in 1965, when he attended the Royal College of Music in London. A year later he traveled to Bahrain in the Middle East to record local music, and his path was set.

In the almost 40 years since Bahrain, Fanshawe has traveled around the world in search of local music and has released albums featuring the music of Africa, Polynesia and southeast Asia.

"Dona Nobis Pacem" was written for choir and piano about six years ago, but Fanshawe recently rearranged the piece and reworked it for an orchestra. This new version had not yet been performed publicly when Edgerton and Egbert decided they wanted to use it.

Edgerton, who had spoken with Fanshawe and his wife when she visited England last summer, contacted Fanshawe, told him about her plans and invited him to hear it performed in public for the first time.

"It all worked out really well," Edgerton said. "He had received four requests for the very same piece, but he said Southeast Missouri State University will have it first."

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